On Addiction

I hate being addicted to any substance. Just the thought that I am allowing myself to be controlled by an external force drives me nuts.

I smoked cigarettes, sometimes over two packs a day, from the time I was 14 until around 10 years ago. So for about 40 years. I chain smoked for around 36 of those years. Then I quit.

The time periods might seem a little vague because they are approximate. I don’t remember specifically when I stopped smoking cigarettes, and I’m glad I don’t remember. That’s how important the blasted things really aren’t.

Anyway, I stopped cold. Period. One day it dawned on me that I could do that.

I didn’t use any crutches either. Didn’t want to. No patches, no gum, no anything. I didn’t want to be unnaturally dependent on ANYthing.

Quitting smoking wasn’t all that difficult once I realized I had to go out of my way to smoke. I had to

  • lay hands on a pack of cigarettes
  • open the pack and take one out
  • put it between my lips
  • find a source of fire
  • light it, and
  • suck those lovely, noxious fumes into my chest.

If I omitted any of those steps, I wouldn’t smoke. Easy-peasy, right?

Actually, it was easy, relatively speaking, because it was a test of my will. To say I’m a little headstrong is to say if you stand in the path of a tornado, you might experience a little wind.

(When I gained weight, my doctor said, “Well if you had the willpower to stop smoking, surely you can go on a healthy diet.” And I said, “Uh, no. It’s not the same at all. I didn’t ‘cut down’ on smoking. I quit. Period. It isn’t like I can quit eating, now is it?” I didn’t add, “Duh,” but I really wanted to. )

After I quit smoking cigarettes, I was not only healthier, I was happier. My temper didn’t get worse, it got better. I walked a lot (to help control my weight) and eventually got up to walking 12 miles in a day. I lost close to 25 pounds.

But then, somewhere along the line, I forgot my mantra. I never called myself a “non-smoker.” A non-smoker is someone who has never smoked.

I was not a non-smoker. I was a Recovering Smoker. That became my mantra. As long as I looked at it that way, I knew I’d never pick up another cigarette.

It worked wonderfully. I was smoke and nicotine free for 5 or 6 years, maybe longer.

Then cigars came along.

I was camping with a friend, I was relaxed, and I was offered a cigar. Actually, the offer came several times over two or three camping trips. No pressure, just the offer. (By the way, the friend bears no culpability. I’m a grown man who makes his own decisions.)

And one day I forgot my mantra. I finally said, “Sure, why not?”

This is particularly ironic, because the friend is a recovering alcoholic. Being a guy, I had offered more than once to buy him a beer at the local dive, but unlike me, he remembered he was in recovery.

Now cigars are not as harmful to the body as cigarettes are. For one thing, you don’t pull the poisons into your lungs. For another, there aren’t nearly as many poisons in cigars in the first place.

I started smoking the things in January 2016. I bought a few packs of “little” cigars to start, thinking I couldn’t handle the big ones.

Hey, who knew the larger the diameter of the cigar, generally speaking, the smoother the experience? I didn’t. But that and the desire for a bigger hit of nicotine enabled me to learn quickly.

So beginning in February 2016, I started buying cigars online. (Unlike cigarettes, they can still be delivered via USPS, UPS, et al.)

Horrible, horrible idea.

I don’t hack and cough like I did when I was smoking cigarettes, but after almost two years of smoking cigars, the nicotine is fully in control.

I’m generally lethargic much of the day. I used to feel good probably 90% of the day. Now I feel really good only when I’m “relaxing” with a cigar.

But that isn’t the worst of it. Starting smoking again is without a doubt the most selfish thing I’ve ever done.

Through June of this year (so in a year and a half), I spent over $4,000 on cigars. And most of those were cheap cigars at around $1.50 – $2 per stick. My “good” cigars are $7 cigars that I get for around $2.50 each.

Granted, that isn’t nearly as much as I would have spent on cigarettes in the same time frame, with the federal government’s asinine decision to charge the highest taxes on the weakest among us. But it’s roughly $4000 more than I would have spent if I’d only remembered “I’m a recovering smoker.”

Now I have to do it all over again.

Don’t get me wrong. If I were able to smoke one cigar a week, or even one or two a day, I wouldn’t even think about quitting.

But that isn’t me. For me, smoking isn’t just a pleasureable pastime. For me, it’s a hardcore addiction.


I’m also a bottom-line kind of guy, and the bottom line is this: If I don’t quit, I will die sooner than I otherwise would have. That’s what it comes down to.


So once again, the decision is made. Easy-peasy.

I have to go through the roughly 3 days of withdrawal symptoms to flush the nicotine out of my system.

No problem. I can do that. I won’t even be terribly hard to put up with during that time because I take to heart the old saw, “Forewarned is forearmed.”

For me, that means I know I’m prone to storms during that time, so I can manage them, tone them down.

And my wife, who also knows I’m prone to storms during that time, will be her always supportive, loving self.

I’ll get healthy again, relatively speaking. After all, I’m 64 years old going on 80.

It’s very difficult for me to diet, so I’ll start walking again to help manage my weight. I won’t be able to walk as far as I did before or enjoy it as much due to structural health problems associated with age and showing off.

It will take a little time for me to quit smoking again. I have some on hand, and I don’t intend to throw them out. And frankly, I don’t think I could bear the guilt of transferring them to some other soul.

Instead, I’ll enjoy them, but I’ll do so on my terms to get my mind ready to quit. I’ll use them to begin taking control again. When I really want one, I’ll say No and not have one. And maybe I’ll smoke two in a row at another time, smoking one or more when I don’t really want them. Again, taking control.

In the meantime, I won’t order anymore. That part of the process begins today.

In a month, maybe two, my current stash will be gone.

When the smoke clears, to use an appropriate cliché, I’ll be a recovering smoker again.

And this time, I won’t forget.